A life in politics

‘I’d rather not talk too much about the Royal Family,’ says Willie Hamilton as I start the interview. The last reporter apparently asked about little else and, strange as it may seem coming from the politician best known for his antipathy towards the home life of our own dear queen, Hamilton is somewhat fed up with the subject. ‘It’s such a triviality, especially now - all the squabbling with Fergie about how much cash she’s going to get


a leaky old Ford, funded solely from collections at meetings, braving fisticuffs with Communist supporters: Hamilton describes it as ‘wonderful, exhilarating, nerve-tingling.’

He has no such enthusiasm for modern-day campaigning. ‘I’ve been sickened by the whole business,’ he says. ‘It’s like a calculated insult to the electorate, trying to influence votes with photo-opportunities it’s got nothing to do with politics. All those hundreds of meetings in Fife, they were open to everyone - Communists, Fascists, the lot and you took what came your way, not like John Major sitting on a stool surrounded by supporters, with someone asking him what he thought about the England cricket team.‘

Once in Parliament as a Labour MP, a member of ‘the greatest workers’ political movement in the world’, Hamilton became a champion of the underdog, a stalwart supporter of women’s rights, of nurses, teachers and miners. ‘The idealism’s gone out of left-wing politics now,’ he says

to keep her mouth shut; it’s nauseating, really.’

Despite the sub-title ‘Memoirs of an

Anti-Royalist’, little of the former Fife MP’s autobiography is devoted to his pet hate. Having described his Durham mining-village boyhood, complete with dry privies and beetle-infested bedrooms (the book’s title, Blood on the Walls derives from his memories of bug-squashing sprees), he takes us through his wartime career, first as as a conscientious objector and then in the RAF (once the USSR had joined the Allies his militant father deemed it politically acceptable to

join up).

He entered politics immediately after the war, contesting the West Fife seat in 1945 and losing to the Communists (strange as it seems now), but winning it in 1951. His descriptions of those early


I Royal Lyceum Theatre: The Board of Directors at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre has expressed its concern over the leaking of confidential documents which led to much inaccurate comment. The £1 .2 million shortfall in capital was, in fact, due to the extensive upgrading and refurbishment of the Grindlay Street premises, completed before the start of the 1991/92 season. Immediately following the leak, the theatre’s main backer, Edinburgh District Council, had called for the resignation of Artistic Director Ian

Wooldridge and chairman Lord Prosser. However, a statement from Lord Prosser last week made clear that ‘any linking of the Company’s Artistic Team to the financial situation was quite wrong’ and a £1 milion funding package has now been agreed with the Council, with Ian Wooldridge continuing in office and Lord Prosser, at the request of the board, staying on to lead the company through the next short period. The company draws attention to the fact that it is ‘looking forward to a bright and successful future’ and to the considerable achievements which in recent years have transformed the Lyceum into a fine theatre for the city.


I Edinburgh Science Festival: The Edinburgh International Science Festival has been nominated for the International Prize for a Creative Future, due to be judged in Madrid late this year as part of the Spanish

Willie Hamilton: ‘sickened by the whole business oi modern-day campaigning'

election campaigns provide a striking contrast to the media-tailored contest we’ve just witnessed. Pre-television , the only way for voters to see candidates was in the flesh, which necessitated a punishing schedule of three public meetings per night (four on Sundays). Travelling the country in


capital’s European City of Culture celebrations. A total of fifteen groups and individuals from across the world have been nominated for the prize, which encourages creative learning and educational research. For Science Festival coverage , see pages 14 and 15.

I SAC Help Desk: On 1 April, the Scottish Arts Council launched a new arts information service which hopes to deal with general enquiries and direct callers to areas of specialist advice. Initially the service will work from four databases covering trusts and foundations, sponsorship, funding from Europe and consultancies. The Help Desk will be available Mon—Fri loam—noon and 2—4pm on 031 243


I Maylest: Now that the colourful programme has hit the streets, ticket sales are going strong for this year’s Mayfest. Hottest properties at the moment include Hue & Cry and k.d. lang on the music front, with the specially commissioned version of A Drunk Man Looks At The Thistle and The Penny Mob’s community production of The Lions 0f Lisbon doing well in the theatre section. Mayfest staff are getting ready for a post-election publicity frenzy, with announcements regarding major events imminent. The List’s unrivalled Mayfest coverage begins next issue. Tickets are available by post, telephone, or in person at The Ticket Centre, Candleriggs, Gr INQ


disgustedly. ‘We’re so bloody respectable it’s unbelievable.’

On the issue ofScotland, Hamilton firmly supports devolution and equally firmly opposes independence, though for some distinctive reasons. ‘You‘d have all kinds of problems,’ he says. ‘You’d need a separate mint for Scottish currency, there’d be all the trouble with exchange rates, and if there were different taxes on whisky you’d get smuggling going on.’ When I point out that the SNP pledged not to establish border controls, he quickly jumps on my mistake. ‘No— it’s the English you need to worry about,’ he says. ‘They’d be putting up the barriers on their side.’ (Sue Wilson)

Blood on the Walls is published by Bloomsbury at

emits" nuns

Mural dispute

The iuture of murals within Bellevue Belormed Baptist Church at the bottom oi Edinburgh's Broughton Street are at the centre oi a Iess-than-holy row. For years the beautliul murals, dating from the 1890s, have been hidden as the building itsell was neglected, its grounds being used as a car pant. Despite the District Council’s insistence that the present owners repalrthe murals, proposals iortumlng the church into a nightclub have angered local residents and ionner congregation members.

Wine List 10— 23 April 1992